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MSCI and the RiskMetrics branding mystery

Is MSCI ESG Analytics the new name for the ESG side of RiskMetrics?

The company isn’t saying much, but it seems that a rebranding on the ESG side could be underway at MSCI’s recently acquired RiskMetrics division, which could jettison the RiskMetrics brand.
According to correspondence from staff in the organization seen by Responsible-Investor.com, ‘MSCI ESG Analytics’ seems to be the form of words being used for the new branding, suggesting that the RiskMetrics brand could shortly disappear from the ESG world as part of the buyout of the firm by the global index group. An MSCI spokesperson was tight-lipped: “MSCI is still finalising the business areas following the acquisition of RiskMetrics Group and will communicate to clients and wider audiences in due course.”
Any repositioning would be taking place amid continuing consolidation in the ESG advisory and proxy voting sector. The merger last week between The Corporate Library and GovernanceMetrics International is the latest in a series of deals that has seen smaller providers strike up alliances or get bought up by bigger names.
The emergence of big data players such as Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters in the sector, both of which have made ESG a strategic priority, has shaken up ESGresearch in the last 12 months. MSCI, the index and risk group bought RiskMetrics, the New York-listed risk management and corporate governance firm, in March this year for $1.55 billion in a cash and stock transaction.
That acquisition gave MSCI access not just to RiskMetrics but also the various research outfits that it had bought recently such as KLD and Innovest, both of whose brands were being erased themselves post acquisition by RiskMetrics.
A total rebranding on the ESG side to MSCI would make sense for the group’s plans to launch a series of proprietary ESG indices and risk products in September.
Intriguingly though, staff at Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), RiskMetrics’ proxy voting arm, have not switched over to an MSCI e-mail address and are using the @issgovernance.com domain.
Sources close to MSCI say the ISS business is seen as a steady income stream, but unlikely to generate significant future growth.
The ISS separation would seem to bear out remarks by MSCI CEO Henry Fernandez that ISS is “non-core” to MSCI.